As an international student or scholar, you’re in the U.S. on a non-immigrant visa, usually F-1, J-1, or H-18. For the most accurate and up-to-date advice, we ask that you rely on information provided by the International House; however, there are many useful websites that cover basic regulations and make you aware of your rights and responsibilities, some of which are included here.
- American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA): If you ever find yourself in need of assistance from an immigration attorney, we recommend that you make sure said attorney is a member of the AILA.
- Department of Homeland Security (DHS): All immigration services and enforcement are under one of the following three areas of the DHS:
- Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): USCIS will do most adjudication of immigrant and non-immigrant benefits either at their local office or through the mail.
- Customs and Border Protection (CBP): The CBP is charged with border patrolling, customs service, and immigration inspection at ports of entry; a CBP agent will be your first contact upon entering the U.S.
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): In addition to the SEVIS program, ICE also handles immigration and customs investigations, customs air and marine interdiction, immigration and customs intelligence, and detention and removal.
- Exchange Visitors Program: This program provides opportunities for international individuals to travel to the U.S. in order to teach, study, conduct research, or receive on-the-job training.
- Immigration Terminology: Use this convenient glossary to sort through and get more information on the words and phrases associated with immigration and visas.
- U.S. Embassy and Consulate: This website is an excellent resource for researching specific visa application procedures in your country.
- USCIS Office in Boston: This website offers directions and hours of operation for Boston’s USCIS office.
- Vermont Service Center: Most applications for benefits are filed at the Vermont Service Center; you can use this website to download immigration forms and find out the processing time and case status of an application filed with the center.
Important Travel Information for those with F-1 and J-1 Status
Receiving an I-94 Arrival/Departure Card
For those of you who have traveled to the U.S. in the past, you may be familiar with the small white cards you filled out in duplicate on the airplane before landing. This card, called an I-94 arrival/departure record, would then have been turned in at the U.S. immigration desk at the airport and stamped by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official before being stapled into your passport. The card proved your legal entry and status in the U.S.
As of May 2013, CBP have moved to an automated I-94 system, meaning that I-94 cards are now electronic. Now when you enter the U.S., the CBP officer will stamp your travel document (passport) at your port of entry. The stamp will show your date of admission, class of admission (F-1, J-1, etc.), and the date that you are admitted until (for students this is "D/S," or “duration of status,” see below). In order to access your electronic I-94, you must log in to the CBP website and answer several travel-oriented questions (name, birth date, passport number, passport country, most recent date of entry, and class of admission). We recommend that you do this shortly after entering the U.S. and print a copy for your records. A printed paper version of your I-94 card is still necessary for certain processes, such as applying for a Social Security Number (SSN).
Duration of Status
As noted above, the Port of Entry Stamp (in your passport) should have a "D/S" written on it, which stands for “duration of status.” Duration of status is defined as the period of time necessary to complete a full course of study in any educational program, plus any authorized period of practical training following completion of that program, plus 60 days in which to depart the U.S. The term "duration of status" is not an indication that you can stay in the U.S. indefinitely as long as you are enrolled at a university.